In life, all of us have a “full-time job” that keeps us busy. It might be college, employment or caring for somebody at home. Regardless of what it is, it takes the biggest slice of cake in any given day and keeps it for itself. Afterwards, we get the crumbs of a few precious hours to ourselves with which we can indulge our human condition.
How often at a party are you asked what you do for a living? The question itself is enough to make some people wince, as despite being told to find a career they are passionate about, this is rarely the case. A job might put food on the table, keep a car on the road or clothes on your back, but it by no means is obligated to make your heart race.
Hobbies are starkly different. After all, we gravitate to what we love, and given even a moment to ourselves will happily drop everything to flick open a book or catch up with our favourite TV show.
I think of myself as sort of a happy medium. As someone who just finished their degree in pharmacy, my day-to-day is about as far away from creative writing as it gets. All the same, I love my job and wouldn’t give it up for the world. I’m not quite fellow Irishman Oscar Wilde, who said “We are all in the gutter, but some us are looking at the stars”. Even so, when I was eight all I wanted to be was a writer, and so straying from that path can feel like defeat. The demands of education meant I shelved my dream for a while, but if these few years of college have taught me anything, it’s that no matter how far you get from where you want to go, you can still get there one day.
These last three years have been a sort of wake-up call for me. Yes, the above sentiment is true, but from the day we are born time is conspiring against us, and so if I want to reach my destination, I have to shift into gear.
This started with a blog, where like a calf, I took those first few wobbly steps into the world with a book review here or there. Those are what we call safe words. Early writing is tepid writing; like cool water, unlikely to get a reaction out of anybody. Pretty soon though, I managed to chip away at the wall I’d put up in my mind, behind which the real words were eagerly waiting.
I imagine the moment I wrote my first heartfelt piece was very Shawshank Redemption-esque, as I stood and tasted the storm and realised I had finally allowed myself open up. In my final year of college, I hoped the storm would rage harder when I wrote for the college magazine. As a writer, I think of these transitions as growing an audience, rather than becoming just another columnist with nothing to say. It meant my words were now spoken through a megaphone, but I still wanted them to have that sort of quiet, whispery effect on people.
My dream is to be a published author, of course. I write fantasy by and large, but I think the beauty of writing as a craft is that experimentation is okay, and more often than not in fact encouraged. Perhaps that’s why a background in science still keeps me in touch. That being said, anything less than the dream shouldn’t be viewed as a compromise, or worse, failure. It may be a cliché, but I write for me, and only after do I pull back the curtains and think that yes, there’s a world out there.
In terms of pursuing that dream, I can at least say that the novel long dormant is threatening to erupt again. My plans for it are back on track, and now part of the 9 to 5 club with a new full-time job, I have at least the beauty of a stable schedule, which is really finding a silver lining if ever I heard of it!
If I’m being honest though, I think I’ve also found a gold lining. What’s a guy whose never stepped foot in a Creative Writing class supposed to do when he’s competing against all these budding professionals?
Firstly: relax. This is my hobby, not a second job as yet, and the journey was promised as the best part. Secondly: go be a pharmacist, and see the wide world about me and forget my desk and the ever-blinking cursor. Writing is about the everyday, and so that’s where I’ll throw myself.
Next time I’m at a party, and somebody asks what I do for a living, maybe I’ll say I’m a writer. Perhaps you should too, and remember that you are defined far more by your passions than you are by your responsibilities.
What part of your life do you think is unique to you as a writer?